I had my first in-person event last week since the start of COVID. While it presented new considerations (like teaching masked), it was really fun sewing with folks again, and I was eager to see one of my newest projects–Long Leaf–in action. Here’s a look, plus some Long Leaf technique tips that I thought would be helpful.
The Long Leaf pattern can go in two different directions in terms of technique. You can use foundation paper piecing (FPP) OR template piecing (with optional acrylic template set). It was really enjoyable to see students favoring both approaches and with plenty of success. I like using both approaches myself too.
If you are unsure of which way to take your project, give each technique a try by making a few test blocks using each technique. The pattern outlines both approaches. That should give you a feel for your preference, but that might also vary based on the fabrics you are using, an end result you want or just your overall piecing preference. Here’s a closer look at each technique.
FPP (Foundation Paper Piecing) Considerations
FPP is more easily precise if you don’t want to get fussy about pre-cutting perfect pieces to start with, needing specific rulers and templates, using an accurate seam allowance and/or pressing your fabrics without stretching and warping. Using a paper foundation stabilizes your project and keeps your blocks the size they need to be. While these aren’t perfect triangular shapes, there are angles to the shapes which can mean bias-ish edges and therefore potential fabric stretching to be careful with.
If you are using a variety of fabrics–linen, quilting cotton, lawn, etc–the paper foundation can make working with them much easier by equalizing their differences. The paper foundation stabilizes them and ensures consistency with your blocks.
I know that some people can be overwhelmed with what size fabric to use when paper piecing. For that reason I always include suggested sizes to start with in my instructions. In this project you can start from rectangles that are quick and easy to cut. Once you have your fabric plan mapped out, you can easily prep your fabric to work with and get to sewing.
When planning your project, I think that using a coloring page is most handy when using FPP. You can quickly map out sections of color or every piece specifically that you can then use as your map for sewing the real thing. Leave notes for yourself on the paper foundation about which fabric goes where. Just make sure to remember that final blocks are mirrored versions of what you see on the inked side of the paper.
Template Piecing Considerations
This approach might be a bit speedier. Of course we all sew differently, so this may or may not be the case in every scenario, but generally speaking template piecing can sew together fairly quickly. You are cutting out each piece perfectly, which means no need for additional trimming as you go.
Cutting from the templates can make fussy cutting super easy. Of course working with special motifs and directional fabric is absolutely possible when using either technique, but it’s definitely easier to cut intentionally if you are using the templates. The templates show you where your seam allowances are, and you can perfectly position stripes, grids, motifs, etc however you’d like.
Without the paper foundation, you’ll want to make sure that you are cutting your shapes accurately, using an even and consistent 1/4″ seam allowance and carefully pressing your seams. Any stretching or distorting is multiplied at each seam which can throw the final dimensions off. The thing to keep in mind is that if you are going to be off, be consistent with it. The pieces in this project are sewn together into long rows, and so if you are consistently off then each row will be consistently off and therefore hopefully compatible with each other. It’s also just fabric, so you can make adjustments (shorten or lengthen) if needed.
Tip: This is why I like using a magnetic seam guide for any basic piecing. I set it to the seam allowance for a project and leave it there until I’m done sewing the top. This way I know I’m being consistent.
I love that you can audition your actual pieces quickly when working from the templates. I like to lay the pieces out on my floor or a design wall as I cut them to see how things are shaping up. Even without sewing the pieces together you will get a great approximation of what it’s all looking like.
Which ever direction you go, I hope you enjoy the project! I’ve made projects using both, and so it’s definitely not always one way or the other for me. That’s the beauty of quilting. There are many ways to make our projects, and I love how we can tailor our own approach to the methods and techniques that serve us and our projects the best.
What are your thoughts on the different techniques?
Working with others on their projects always makes me want to get home and sew. Here are some pieces I’ve been sewing together from a pile of scraps as well as the fabrics I was using for demonstrations in class. There isn’t a specific color direction happening here, but I think I really want to embrace a lot of variety.
Pattern: Long Leaf Quilt Pattern
Techniques: FPP or Template Piecing (using the Long Leaf Acrylic Template Set)